Opening our eyes to the wonders of the past

To see the world through the eyes of acclaimed archaeologist and television presenter Neil Oliver, if only for a day, would be a true gift – and this tome is about as close as it gets.

It pays testament to Oliver’s enthusiasm for the history woven into every square inch of Scotland’s romantic landscapes, and brings light to what has otherwise been a year full of trials and tribulations.

In his usual poetic fashion, Oliver brings our forebearers’ stories to life, demonstrating how their wisdom might be applied to our chaotic 21st-century world.

‘For all we have in the modern world,’ he writes, ‘simple peace of mind is hard to find. In search of that elusive treasure, I have looked back at the world of our ancestors.’

Researching everything from Callanish and the rock of ages to the Lindisfarne Gospels and cave paintings, Oliver’s masterful storytelling encourages the reader to consider how 12 historic messages – based on the likes of family, memory, heroes, loss and sacrifice – have stood the test of time. Whether it’s reminding us to care for one another, or to appreciate the safety of family and a family home, this is a powerful read.

Oliver forces us to cast an analytical glance at modern society, questioning our desire for consumption and reliance on the sensational, stripping it back to highlight the importance of basic requirements for human life.

In these troubling times, reading this feels like sitting down for a heart-to-heart with a wise grandparent, cup of tea in hand, and is both academically and emotionally enlightening. A comforting read that couldn’t be more timely.

Wisdom of the Ancients: Life Lessons From Our Distant Past, by Neil Oliver, published by Bantam Press, £20.

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